Jean Jacques Rousseau was born in Geneva, Switzerland on 28th June 1712 and was brought up as a protestant by his Uncle, as his mother died at birth and his father fled to avoid imprisonment. But at age 15, Rousseau met Louise de Warrens, who was a well to do widow. It was under her influence that Rousseau joined the Roman Catholic Church, but later converted back to the protestant denomination as he lost his citizenship of Geneva so in order to get it back he converted back to the protestant denomination. He became friends with the philosophes which were a group of famous writers and philosophers. He had many views on areas such as the arts and education, and childcare he believed that children should be brought up in a loving environment, but gave his five children to an orphanage soon after they were born, but also held strong opinions about religion and strongly believed in tolerance of religion. Rousseau mostly gave functional definitions.
Rousseau believed that religion could be divided into two categories he said, "Religion, considered in connection with societies, whether general or particular, can be divided into two categories, the religion of the man and the religion of the citizen." He believed that the religion of the man was informal and unorganised focusing on morality and the worship of God. The religion of the citizen however is “civil religion” This is the religion of a single country or a national religion. This type of religion is organised with formal codes of belief. It teaches love of country obedience to state and military values.
Rousseau also claimed that there was a third type of religion He said that the third type of religion is organised and hierarchical, with formal dogmas. It is independent from the state as it is international and has its own agenda therefore it is the religion of many nations rather than one. A religion of this sort competes with the state for the allegiance of its citizens and as a result causes internal division. Rousseau used Catholicism to illustrate this kind of religion. However Rousseau discounted these types of religion saying that it was “so manifestly bad that the pleasure of demonstrating its badness would be a waste of time. Everything that destroys social unity is worthless; and all institutions that set man at odds with himself are worthless.”
Rousseau believed that Christianity is a wholely spiritual religion concerned solely with the things of heaven; the Christians homeland is not of this world. He also believed that Christianity was other-worldly and took away from the citizens love of the state. He said that Christianity was bad for the state as the citizens would be more committed to heaven rather than to their country.
However he claimed that the other type of religion he defined, the religion of the citizen was not very good because it made the citizens “blood-thirsty and intolerant” He said that civil religion was based on error and lies, and that it deceives men and makes them naive and superstitious. He thought that the best religion would be a mixture of the two religions or a compromise. He thought that the law should be responsible for abolishing religions that were harmful but that the individual should be free to choose religions that were legal. He thought that all religions should accept “the existence of an omnipotent, intelligent, benevolent divinity that for sees and provides; the life to come; the happiness of the just; the punishment of the sinners and the sanctity of the social contract and the law.”
Rousseau looks at what each type of religion that he defines does to the individual and to the state the religion is in. According to Rousseau the religion of the man, makes the individual focus on morality. Rousseau is therefore stating a function of religion and saying what it does to the individual involved in the religion. Rousseau also stated what religion did in terms of the state or country. He said that the religion of the citizen teaches love of country obedience to state and military values and that it is “blood-thirsty and intolerant. He is demonstrating the functions of religion in this way.
His third type of religion is also functional as according to Rousseau it “destroys social unity” he is stating what it is that religion does to the state.
Rousseau’s definitions have their strengths as they break down the religions found in society, however as with many functional definitions it does not actually define what religion actually is. Rousseau did mention that religion to the man was the worshipping of god, but this discounts those religions that do not have a god, he is excluding religions such as Theravaden Buddhism. However Rousseau’s theories are more inclusive than other religions as a religion that does not fall under one type may fall under another, for example Marxism does not fit into Rousseau’s religion of the man but it may fit into the second type Rousseau gave which is the religion that is concerned with the state and the citizens relation to the state. Rousseau gave three types of religion so that there was more scope for religions to fall in. However he did not really provide a sufficient definition as he does not get to the core of every religion and define what it is exactly what religion is.